tv NBC Nightly News NBC September 8, 2010 4:30pm-5:00pm PST
on our broadcast tonight, not backing down. a florida pastor vows to burn the koran despite huge public pressure not to. question is -- how will the world react? out of nowhere. a firestorm skips across the sky of a major american city leaving a lot of homes destroyed and a lot of questions. google's new invention. how can it really know what you're thinking, and where do they come up with this stuff that finds its way to our computers? and making a difference. it's a long way home for a man who made his name here on the football field, but it's his only way to express his thanks for all he has today. also tonight, a close call for planet earth. also tonight, a close call for planet earth. "nightly news" begins now.
captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. a southern pastor with a small following suddenly has people all over the world following his plans. that's because he has pledged to burn a copy of the koran this weekend. despite a number of people, including his own government, pleading with him not to. there are a lot of issues at work here -- religion and free speech, deep anger and recent american history among them. we begin tonight with nbc's kerry sanders who has spoken with the pastor in gainesville, florida. kerry, good evening. >> reporter: well, good evening, brian. despite those calls from the highest levels of the u.s. government, the pastor here says he is not backing down. on the anniversary of september 11, he plans to take the islamic holy book and burn it. burn the koran. pastor terry jones says he has
more than 200 koran and he claims a message from god to pile them up and burn them saturday. >> it is by no means a stunt. we have thought this out. we have prayed this through. we believe that this type of message is right now very, very necessary in america before it's too late. >> reporter: the church's associate pastor -- >> it's a smith & wesson .40 caliber. >> reporter: -- says he's now armed after hundreds of e-mails from around the world flooded the church's in-box. messages like, swear by almighty god, i will slay the church pastor terry jones in front of the church's door. the dove world outreach center sits outside a cow pasture in rural gainesville, florida. the congregation here numbers less than 50. while this afternoon their leader said he is undeterred -- >> we have no intention of cancelling. >> reporter: -- pastor jones admits he's never read the koran but takes no responsibility if burning it leads to an attack on a u.s. soldier.
>> of course we would feel terrible. we are not responsible for that. why don't we point the finger where it belongs? don't point the finger at us. why don't we point the finger at them -- the people who did it? >> reporter: some christians and muslims came to the church today to urge the pastor to reconsider. >> this isolated incident should not change the impression of the world, especially the muslim world, about how great america is. >> while a city ordinance allows for campfires, officials say books are considered a hazardous material because of their ink. >> the way the fire department describes it is the ink in the book itself -- it doesn't matter what book it is. the ink in that book itself is what makes it a violation. >> reporter: the local fire department is on alert. while they will not reveal their tactics they say they will not let the church violate the law. brian? >> kerry sanders in gainesville, florida, tonight starting us off.
kerry, thanks. you could use the phrase the whole world is watching. it is true people around the world are, especially in the muslim world, everyone wondering what's going to happen on saturday. tonight, there is new reaction from around the world. our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell here with us in our new york studios this evening. andrea, good evening. >> good evening. indeed there is reaction from around the world. the pastor's plan to burn the koran has been denounced by the white house and the u.s. military, fearing that it will inflame the muslim world, but now secretary of state hillary clinton has gone even further. even the threat of burning the koran ignited protests today in jakarta, capitol of the world's most populous muslim country. hillary clinton said this one tiny church doesn't represent america. >> it is regrettable that a pastor in gainesville, florida, with a church of no more than 50 people can make this outrageous and distressful, disgraceful
plan and get the world's attention. >> reporter: then she went further, suggesting the media shouldn't pay attention. >> so we are hoping that the pastor decides not to do this. we're hoping against hope that if he does, it won't be covered. [ laughter ] >> bonn chance. >> as an act of patriotism. >> reporter: with protests already erupting in kabul this week, the u.s. fears retaliation against american troops. general david petraeus speaking to brian williams today. >> we are concerned that the images from the burning of a koran would be used in the same way that extremists used images from abu ghrab, that they would, in a sense, be indelible. >> reporter: the florida pastor even got the vatican's attention. >> this act would only call for new hate and violence. >> reporter: some of the families of those killed on 9/11 said that burning the koran is
unacceptable and abhorrent and an insult to the victims. some say while distasteful it is still not illegal. >> the u.s. constitution says you have a right to do that. period. end of story. the government can't stop you from burning a book. >> reporter: sarah palin has now tweeted that pastor jones should please stand down, that people have a right to burn a koran but that it is insensitive and an unnecessary provocation that will feed the fire. brian? >> all eyes on this pastor and this weekend. andrea mitchell, thanks. president obama was in cleveland today talking about the u.s. economy, jobs, taxes and pushing a new set of programs aimed at jump starting growth. even as he acknowledged things have not gone as smoothly as he and his economic team had hoped. >> i am keenly aware that not all of our policies have been popular. so, no, our job is not easy. but you didn't elect me to do what was easy.
[ applause ] >> you didn't elect me to just read the polls and figure how to keep myself in office. you didn't elect me to avoid big problems. you elected me to do what was right. >> the speech was as much about politics as it was policy. even the choice of where it took place. our white house correspondent savannah guthrie also visiting the home office here in new york tonight. savannah, it was interesting. he's back to campaign kind of cadence and mentioning john boehner a lot in the house of representatives. >> right, john boehner who, of course, is the house republican leader and the man many think will become speaker of the house were the republicans to get control of the house again. you're right. he was mentioned eight times in the speech. the choice of cleveland, no accident. it's boehner's home state. he gave a speech there on the economy two weeks ago telling the world the president should fire his entire economic team. today the president
really counterpunched. this is a white house looking to sharpen the attack and make it more specific and make boehner the face of the republican party. it's one thing to run against a general idea. it's another to have an opponent and that is clearly where the white house is going with this. >> all right. savannah guthrie, good to have you here. thanks. the city of detroit did not need what happened there last night. in the past few decades they have survived riots, urban blight, a deep plunge in the car business always fighting to keep detroit alive. then last night a fire started. it combined with a windstorm and seemed to spread through the air. there was no way the city's already stressed fire department or any big fire department, for that matter, could have kept up with this. our report tonight from nbc's kevin tibbles who is with us from detroit. kevin, good evening. >> reporter: good evening, brian. when the winds hit detroit last night they set off a firestorm that threatened to consume entire neighborhoods. along this street alone, four
houses burned before the fire department even got here. in just a few hours the detroit fire department was confronted with 85 buildings burning out of control. many of them abandoned homes and other vacant structures in sections of the motor city hit hard by the struggling economy. eight of the fires started when power lines were downed by heavy sustained winds. the flames whipped by strong gusts up to 50 miles per hour, sending plumes of smoke into the air. >> it was chaos. seemed like they couldn't get it under control. >> reporter: many tinder dry adjoining structures caught fire from the flying sparks. >> i have never seen fire move like that. you couldn't see. there was so much smoke just looking like debris from a tornado. >> reporter: today, detroit's mayor praised the motor city's first responders. >> they just did a yeoman's job under some terrible, terrible conditions to make sure that there was no loss of life. >> reporter: hundreds of
firefighters responded, many from the suburbs, called in for the first time since the 1967 riots here. today, there is criticism detroit's emergency services have been cut too thin. >> the fire department got here too late. they got here late. >> reporter: these fires just another blow to a still proud city that has seen more than its share of setbacks. >> let's hope this is the bottom, that the bottom is where we are now. the only place we can look now is upward. >> reporter: for many who last night watched in horror, hope for something better is still a long way off. brian, today the mayor bristled at the suggestion that budget cuts were putting lives at risk. he said what happened here was a natural disaster. brian? >> as we said, that city sure didn't need it. kevin tibbles with us from detroit tonight. kevin, thanks for your reporting. another natural disaster. tropical storm hermine has taken a terrible toll on texas. authorities there say flooding from the storm has killed at
least two people. it was parked over the state most of yesterday. one man was swept away from his pickup truck. authorities say they are looking for a woman whose suv was swept off a road by a swollen creek following the torrential and relentless rainfall. and a wildfire still burning near boulder, colorado, tonight. a local sheriff says four people are unaccounted for may be among those who chose not to evacuate, risking their lives to save their homes. it tore up 140 structures or thereabouts. bp today released its internal investigation into what caused the "deepwater horizon" disaster. you may not be surprised to learn the 193-page report spreads the blame around, pointing the finger at haliburton for a bad cement job and rig owner transocean for not reacting fast enough when oil and gas came up out of that pipe and for using a faulty blowout preventer. bp only took responsibility for
one mistake -- misinterpreting a pressure test -- a big pressure test, as it turned out. transocean today called the report self-serving. haliburton said it contained substantial omissions and inaccuracies. the federal investigation is another matter entirely. when "nightly news" continues in just a moment, a big change for google. and we are inside the war room where it's all happening. and later, an nfl star who hasn't forgotten where he came from. how he's making a difference where he's desperately needed.
breaking news. we just told you about the flooding in texas as part of tropical storm hermine. now the remnants of the storm spawned several tornadoes near downtown dallas as well. one twister slammed a tractor-trailer into a warehouse. so far only one injury has been reported. it's a pretty rare occurrence in that city. we'll continue to follow it, of
course. for now, it's back to brian williams in new york. because the folks at google thought nine seconds was often too long to wait for a search result to come up on your computer screen, with much fanfare they rolled out something called google instant. the upside of the new product is it's a fast search. the downside is some people may find it annoying because it tries to guess what you're looking for by staying one step ahead of you and trying to assume you know what you want. for example, i made up and typed in the query "the weather in spanish harlem." with each new letter i typed it pointed me to target, ticket master, thesaurus, spain, pokeman, hats, the best hams in spain, home insulation and hydrogen cars and several others before i got my answer which, by the way today was clear, high of 88, low of 60 degrees. again, it is faster. if you use google five times a
day you will save about two hours over the course of a year. that's several days tacked onto the end of your life. while this was being developed our own george lewis was given a rare look inside google where they make all this happen. tonight he reports on the making of the next new thing. >> reporter: leading up to today's announcement, google -- normally a pretty secretive place -- gave us unprecedented access to what they call their war rooms. meetings where people stand, passionately debating the overhaul. >> fast, easy. >> reporter: speaking quickly, they keep a stopwatch running. >> that was 12.35. >> reporter: what is it they are working on exactly? google instant, speeding up search. >> you add a word and see results update immediately. remove a word and you see the results update immediately. >> reporter: for those who find it annoying, the engineers keep tweaking the process.
in a place resembling a police interrogation room with people watching through two-way mirrors google experts showed how they track eye movements of test subjects to speed up interaction. how much faster is it? >> 20% faster which is insanely fast. >> reporter: this is a small sample of the over 1 billion search requests google says it gets daily. by shaving 2 to 5 seconds off each request that's a savings of between 63 and 153 years every day. but as google speeds up its search business is slowing in growth. fortune magazine recently asked, is google over? as the company competes with facebook and microsoft bing for ad dollars. >> google is constantly evolving. i don't think this is really for google to play catch-up to bing or anybody else. >> reporter: evolving to meet a global need for speed. george lewis, nbc news, mountain view, california.
moon today. in space terms that's like threading a needle. it's an eyelash, just 250,000 miles. they were only discovered en route to us on sunday, thanks for all the advanced notice. these are hardly pieces of space dust. the largest of these two asteroids was estimated to be 65 feet wide, big enough to leave a mark. if you are a man among us who brags you're the same pants size you were in high school, don't kid yourself. that's what an article in the new esquire says. it says your pants are really lying to you -- really, the manufacture manufacturers. women have dealt with this for years. it's called vanity sizing in the clothing trade and the magazine discovered a pair of men's dockers purchased by the guys who bragged they still have a 36-inch waist, it's closer to 40. old navy's 36 is 41 in real life. a lot of guys are living much
larger than they think. and look what happens when a luxury cruise ship hits a freak storm. this video just surfaced. it happened in 2008 off the coast of new zealand. because the cameras lock down you don't get a feeling for the movement, how much the ship keels over from side to side except for all the tables, chairs and the people hanging on like shelly winters in "the poseidon adventure." 42 people were injured. passengers were offered a discount voucher on the next trip. we have no idea how many of them signed up. up next, as we continue, when making a difference means not forgetting where you came from -- in this case, one of the neediest places on earth.
finally tonight, our making a difference report about a man who comes from one of the poorest places on the planet, still recovering from a brutal civil war. he just happens to be a pro football player and you will see him tomorrow night on the nbc in the season opener as his vikings take on the world champion saints at the superdome in new orleans. his name is madieu williams and ron allen has retraced his story
to sierra leone in west africa where williams came from and it's where he now gives back. >> reporter: madieu williams has come home to a school he built in a poor community in sierra leone. >> i see a lot of myself in these children and give them the opportunity. the sky's the limit. >> reporter: he brought volunteers from a group called healing hands and a friend and fellow football player, tequel jackson. handing out basic school supplies. most classes often don't have books. most students never finish grade school. >> it's emotional to see the kids so bright and eager and excited and happy. >> reporter: the dentist came, too, for most kids their first visit. >> it's going to be okay, i promise. >> this is my street. >> reporter: williams was born in this war-ravaged nation. ten years of civil war, infrastructure destroyed. more than half live on about $1
per day. now williams is a star football player, number 20 on the minnesota vikings, but never far from his roots. you say you don't want to be defined by football. >> yeah, it doesn't last long. the acronym, nfl -- not for long. and for the most part -- >> reporter: that's what it stands for? >> in the locker room. >> reporter: i never knew that. >> but at the end of the day, i have other interests outside football. >> reporter: williams left sierra leone for the u.s. when he was 9. he says his family, especially his mother, a nurse, who he lost at just 45, taught him compassion. he named his school for her. >> it's to keep her memory alive. i know that's something she would want. >> reporter: he further honored her by giving $2 million to the university of maryland, his alma mater. >> it's priceless the amount of lives that are going to be affected for a lifetime. >> reporter: his endowment will fund education and health care research to help places like sierra leone.
it will also bring more volunteers like dr. flores, a plastic surgeon, here examining zina, 13, disfigured by a tooth infection, abandoned by her family. >> i have six dentists for 6 million people. >> reporter: how difficult is it to be here? >> it's disappointing knowing the lack of resources. >> reporter: more than 40% of children here never see the age of 5. williams has accomplished quite a bit, but if you ask him he'll tell you this is just the beginning. he wants to build more schools for higher grades so kids like this have a chance to go all the way through high school. back at the hospital, flores performs a routine procedure to give zina relief. that football player and friend of williams is so moved by the suffering he makes this promise to zina. >> i'm going to make it my personal business to make sure that girl has an education. that's my word. >> five times two.
>> reporter: essentially the same promise madieu williams made to the children of sierra leone. ron allen, nbc news, sierra leone. >> madieu williams and his teammates take on the saints tomorrow night. for us, that's our broadcast for this wednesday night. thank you for being here with us. i'm brian williams. we hope to see you back here tomorrow evening. we hope to see you back here tomorrow evening. good night. we begin with breaking news. good evening, everyone. >> several people were injured in oakland when a dump truck apparently lost its brakes and ran into cars stopped on an off-ramp. nbc bay area's cheryl hurd is at the scene and on the phone to give us the latest. what are you hearing about